Mommy, What’s Wrong?

14 mins  16mm  color/b&w  1997

Available versions: 1) English, 2) Chinese subs

Producer/Director/Writer/Editor  Anita Chang

A young woman’s relationship to her mother and sense of personal history is revealed in an evocative docu-memoir composition of home movie footage, recordings and the subconscious thread of a recurring dream. Thoughts of immigration, motherhood, daughterhood and spirituality culminate in a cathartic relay of strength between mother and daughter. This strong emotional undertow conjures a desire to look deeper into the artifact, evidence and testimony of memory. (The Center for Asian American Media)


Artist Statement
This film barely happened. When I went to visit my mother in Massachusetts in the winter of 1997, we got into a big argument. This interview took place two hours before my flight back to San Francisco. Hence, this film was an experiment in the use of filmmaking as a tool for searching out and understanding one’s own personal and emotional history. In working with found footage, i.e., home movies, as personal artifact, and in the close and painstaking examination of each frame that was shot by my father and mother – thinking about its purpose at the time it was materialized – as daughter, I searched for clues to the past and imagine what could or might, or what was really happening to my mother (in front and behind the camera).

As the title suggests, the search for emotional strength from my mother entails an understanding of her as an individual, of the struggles she faced and still faces. For this piece, I chose to understand her within the framework of motherhood as an institution, and as an immigrant where political and social forces, such as western cultural imperialism, and colonialism, influenced her values and choices – values and choices that are not mine and are frequently the source of tension, and, ultimately, of our distance. Dr. Paula Kaplan writes in her book Barriers Between Women, “The daughter whose mother is a source of strength, an ally with whom she can discuss alternatives and uncertainties without fearing either her mother’s perfection or her mother’s collapse, can find in her a model of strength and independence.” It is these fears that so many daughters, including myself, are preoccupied with, and which serve in part to maintain this distance.

First Person in a Globalized World, Cinema Project, Portland, OR 2006 / Women Make Waves Festival & National Tour, Taiwan 2003 / House, Home & Homeland in Diasporic and Exilic Cinemas, U. of California Berkeley 2003 / California College Arts & Crafts, San Francisco 2003 / Madison Cinematheque, University of Wisconsin, WI 2003 / Chicago Filmmakers, IL 2002 / The Spaces She Inhabits: An Evening of Films by Anita Chang, San Francisco Cinematheque 2002 / Featured Artist, Kearny Street Workshop, San Francisco 2002 / KTOP Cable TV, Oakland 2002 / Locus Arts, San Francisco 2001 / Oakland Asian American Film & Video Showcase 2001 / Asian American Film & Literature Festival, Rice U., TX 2001 / ‘Imagining Place, Imagining Self’ (MIT, Emerson, Museum School of Fine Art, Tufts, UMass Amherst) 2000 / KRON Bay TV, San Francisco 2000 / Donnell Media Center, NYC 1999 / Boulder Asian American Film Festival, CO 1999 / Portugal International Documentary Film Festival, Lisbon 1998 / Madrid Experimental Film Festival, Spain 1998 / Toronto Asian American Film Festival, Canada 1998 / Vancouver Asian American Film Festival, Canada 1998 / Hungarian Multicultural Film & Video Festival 1998 / Exploratorium, San Francisco 1998 / New York International Asian American Showcase & National Tour 1998 / Marin Shorts Film Festival, Mill Valley, CA (Third Prize for Documentary) 1998 / Atlanta International Film and Video Festival 1998 / Chicago Asian American Film Festival 1998 / Ann Arbor Film Festival 1998 / Boston Asian American Film Festival 1998 / San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival 1998 / Berkeley Women of Color Film Festival, Pacific Film Archive 1998 / Women of Vision, KCSM-TV, CA 1998 / Multicultural Film & Video Festival, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco 1997 / Film Arts Festival of Independent Cinema, San Francisco 1997 / Free Speech TV, Boulder, CO 1997

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